Yesterday for our day off Mark and I had a special bottle of wine that we have been wanting to drink. Terre del Grico’s 1997 Monstyronum from Puglia, Italy. I knew the smoky and spicy flavors would pair well with my lamb stew, and yet I wanted to do it a little differently. I caramelized the onions and pulled them out of the pot, then I browned the lamb shanks. Meanwhile I cut up some carrots, celery, garlic, parsley and carrot tops. I pulled the shanks out and deglazed the pan with a bottle of our Forte Canto Negroamaro, which is by the same wine maker as the Monstyronum, but from younger vines on the same estate. Since I didn’t have an orange I took the zest of a lemon in long peels and threw those in with some dried figs, tomato paste and dried spices like red chili flakes, garam masala, cinnamon and nutmeg. Once the wine was reduced I threw everything else into the pot, covered with chicken stock, and brought it to a boil. I turned down the heat and let it simmer for about an hour and a half with the lid mostly on. I took the lid off and let it go another half hour-ish. I started the creamy polenta, took out the shanks, and turned up the ‘gravy’ to medium high and let it reduce like crazy.

We plated the polenta; put a shank just off it’s center and surrounded it all with the stew vegetables. It was so yummy! The wine was almost as good as I remembered it (I so rarely find that anything is as good after the first time) and Mark enjoyed it as well. He had never tasted this wine before, and lamb shank is not his most favorite thing in the world, but I knew he would really enjoy that meal… and he did.

I think next time I will go back to my usual stew, since I, too, love the flavor of the meat better than the shank, and it is just as easy to do. Though I had fun changing it up a bit and we get leftovers all week, now! It was an easy way to cook a special meal with very little actual hands-on time. Usually I just roast a chicken and some veggies, and this was not much more work than that.

What do you do for your simple meals? What do you love when it is time to do it up special? I probably won’t cook like that next week, but we do have some fabulous country-style pork ribs in the freezer. I got them from Bruce Dunlop at Lopez Island Farm so I know they are going to be sooo yummy! I do love me some pig!